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Ataco (Amaranthus quitensis)

Common Name Latin Name Plant Family
Amaranthus quitensis

Yellow and green dyes can be obtained from the whole plant[168].

  • Medicinal Use

    None known

  • Edible Use

    A red edible dye is obtained from the inflorescence, it is used in S. America for colouring ceremonial maize dishes[183].

    Leaves – cooked[177]. Used as a potherb[183].

    Seed – ground into a powder and used as a flour[177, 183]. The seed can be cooked whole, and becomes very gelatinous like this, but it is rather difficult to crush all of the small seeds in the mouth and thus some of the seed will pass right through the digestive system without being assimilated[K].

  • Cautionary Notes

    No members of this genus are known to be poisonous, but when grown on nitrogen-rich soils they are known to concentrate nitrates in the leaves. This is especially noticeable on land where chemical fertilizers are used. Nitrates are implicated in stomach cancers, blue babies and some other health problems. It is inadvisable, therefore, to eat this plant if it is grown inorganically.

Cultivation & Habitat

Seed – sow late spring in situ. An earlier sowing can be made in a greenhouse and the plants put out after the last expected frosts. Germination is usually rapid and good if the soil is warm[133]. A drop in temperature overnight aids germination[133]. Cuttings of growing plants root easily[206].
We have very little information on this species and do not know how well it will grow in Britain, but it will probably succeed as a spring-sown annual. It is occasionally cultivated in S. America, mainly for the edible dye obtained from its inflorescence[183]. The plant is also of interest as a probable ancestor of A. caudatus, which is cultivated as a grain crop in S. America. This species could be of value in any breeding programmes. The following notes are based on the general needs of the genus. Prefers a well-drained fertile soil in a sunny position[200]. Requires a hot sheltered position if it is to do well[K]. Plants should not be given inorganic fertilizers, see notes above on toxicity. Most if not all members of this genus photosynthesize by a more efficient method than most plants. Called the ‘C4 carbon-fixation pathway’, this process is particularly efficient at high temperatures, in bright sunlight and under dry conditions[196].
S. America – Andes. A rare casual in Europe.

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*None of the information on this website qualifies as professional medical advice. Take only what resonates with your heart and use your own personal responsibility for what’s best for you. For more information [brackets] [000], see bibliography.